Transit Briefs: GO Transit; WMATA; Caltrain

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
GO Transit will expand 120 kilometers (75 miles) into Southwestern Ontario as part of a pilot program starting Oct. 18.

GO Transit will expand 120 kilometers (75 miles) into Southwestern Ontario as part of a pilot program starting Oct. 18.

GO Transit commuter rail service is coming to London, Ontario. In addition, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) has released an audit of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) railcar maintenance and overhaul practices; and Caltrain has launched a Go Pass donation pilot program.

GO Transit will expand 120 kilometers (75 miles) into Southwestern Ontario as part of a pilot program starting Oct. 18. Metrolinx is providing the service between Toronto’s Union Station and London (see map above). GO’s Kitchener line will extend to new stops in St. Marys, Stratford and London, using existing VIA Rail stations. Each weekday, there will be one trip leaving from London in the early morning and one return trip in the evening. Each trip will take approximately four hours.

The province of Ontario worked with VIA Rail for station use and CN for corridor access.

More detailed schedule and fare information will be available closer to launch, Metrolinx reported.

“Southwestern Ontario is experiencing incredible growth, with an estimated 1.98 million people calling the region home by 2041,” according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. “Increasing options for passengers traveling between London and Toronto is one of more than 40 actions in Connecting the Southwest: A Draft Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario” (download below).

“The people of Southwestern Ontario deserve better access to a safe and reliable transportation network,” Ontario Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney said during the Sept. 15 announcement. “Under Premier Ford’s leadership, we are taking concrete action and keeping our promise to extend much-needed GO service all the way to London for the first time.”

Independent safety commission WMSC audited WMATA’s railcar maintenance and overhaul practices in 2021 (download report below). On Sept. 14, it issued 12 findings requiring the rapid transit agency to develop corrective action plans (CAPs).

Among the findings: WMATA “did not follow its safety certification processes for the 6000-Series rehabilitation and overhaul project,” WMSC reported. In addition, WMATA “did not even follow the other steps, improperly created outside of its safety certification process, that it said were being used for this railcar rehabilitation work. Later, in fall 2020, two 6000 Series train [separations] … occurred involving Red Line trains in revenue service. Safety certification is designed to ensure that hazards are addressed or mitigated prior to a safety event. [WMATA] is also developing a similar rehabilitation project for the 7000 Series cars, but is doing so without full coordination with its Safety Department.”

Additionally, the safety commission found that WMATA “is not requiring or receiving all necessary documentation, parts and tools from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)”; does not have “adequate document control practices for car maintenance job plans; does not clearly define the use of certain engineering documents; and does not have a systematic process to ensure that mechanics and engineers are trained for the specific tasks they are assigned to perform.” Also, WMATA “does not consistently follow a standard process to address wheels out-of-round … that can contribute to infrastructure damage.”

WMSC identified a number of positive practices related to WMATA’s railcar programs, as well. They include: WMATA is “effectively utilizing its engineering request process for improvements to maintenance practices, procedures and facilities” and has improved collaboration between engineers and mechanics. In addition, the “early stages of 8000 Series development have included cross-departmental cooperation and coordination.”

Caltrain is allowing riders to donate unused 2021 GO passes to a network of qualified community-serving organizations. The aim is “to increase access to the Caltrain system, build ridership across a diverse market, and preserve Go Pass participation through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” according to the commuter rail agency that provides service from San Francisco to San Jose, Calif. (see map below).

The pilot is beginning with donations from Intuit and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Local organizations like Samaritan House will distribute the passes to their clients.

A full program launch is planned for January. It will run through 2022, using donations received from Go Pass subscribers this fall.

“The Caltrain Board applauds the donations of Intuit and MTC, which have made the first phase of the new program possible,” Caltrain Board Chair Dev Davis said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to support the works of many organizations that serve our community, and we look forward to more companies joining this effort.”

“This donation helps solve equity needs in our backyard and strengthen the communities around us,” Intuit Global Commute Solutions Leader Tom Harrington said. “We are proud to donate 700 Go Passes to the local organizations serving our communities.”

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